TaNuj^'s Weblog

Looking Back…

Posted on: May 20, 2009

Wondering what I have been upto?

Another kick-off start to a year of social studies in PBL. The old year 9’s have aged into yr 10’s. Whereas the hustling, and anxious yr 8’s have matured into yr 9’s. Welcome to another year at Marist. Another year which is bound to overflow with rigorous learning and ample laughter.

Learning, educating and development of year 9 and 10 students, has taken a leap into what we call PBL (Project/Problem Based Learning). Its system, which raising various questions upon the aspect of education. PBL is a step forward in the era of technology, and social studies is one the branches that includes the subjects- English, History and Geography. Many developed and developing countries are slowly but steadily adopting this system. Numerous schools are looking ahead, in educating their learners through this process of PBL, in order for their pupils to compete globally.

Teachers at our school are really starting to blossom as 21st century tutors. A major part of being a group of talented teachers, undertaking PBL( problem/project based learning) for first time in Australia, is that they are learning alongside students. But they realise, and look at the projects from the perspective of students. Projects that are designed in Social studies are well beyond our lavishing dreams. They are not only aimed to be informative and contentful, but alongside fun and enjoyable.

While the duration of various projects that are conducted in social studies, students are given a entry document, which underlines what needs to be done in a particular project. Students are also shown the process of organisation, as they are asked to use various types of planners, but also they need to write meeting minutes to keep track of the work conducted. Whilst the project is being undertaken, teachers often set out few smaller activities which then leads onto the final product (the bigger picture). In these smaller activities if a student has any problems, then teacher would simply show him the direction or the pathway he can take in order to complete the given task. Students are pushed to use there own creative minds, with the aspect of self-initiative kept underneath the microscope.

So lets see what an accomplished and a successful PBL teacher has to say, upon social studies…

Miss. Lucy Gresser (assistant PBL co-ordinator, and a leading Social studies teacher)

“Social Studies is an integrated course that combines English, History and Geography across Year 9 and 10 PBL classes at Parramatta Marist. The subject was designed this way in order to create multi-layered projects that are designed to engage our students on a number of levels through varying teaching and learning strategies that addresses compulsory content set by the BOS (Board Of Studies) yet allowing students to be critical thinkers and essentially activemembers of the learning process in a positive learning environment.

A project consists of both individual and group work tasks that are originally revealed in the entry document of the project. In Social Studies we haveadopted a system whereby the entry document should incorporate some element of what we expect our students to be able to achieve, for example the program we would like them to use this links strongly to my belief of modelling our expectations to our students as an essential component of PBL. Each project we design also includes links to necessary skills of preparing our students for the real world by relying heavily on communication and collaboration.

The focus in Social Studies is primarily on the content yet in order to effectively connect with our tech-savvy students we incorporate the use of web 2.0 tools as a component of the task. We have to recognise that our students are growing up in a world where skills associated with technology are crucial to any employment outside of school. It just needs to be the right tool so students to demonstrate their learning effectively to their teachers and their fellow students.

I think it’s important to note that there are so many possibilities for our 21stCentury learner. Education is not merely the passing on of knowledge from teacher to student, like in a transmission-style learning environment. Education is far more than that. It is the way in which we allow our students to immerse themselves in a culture of learning that moves beyond content. It is extremely rewarding to see our students actively engaged in their studies working within an environment that involves collaboration and certainly a healthy environment of competition.

So far this year, our new Year 9 students have undertaken a number of rigorous projects that have included “Shake Things Up”, “Scorched” and most recently “An Inconvenient Reply”. These have involved our students in a number of tasks included creating a trailer for a modernised version of a Shakespearean play, a news broadcast on some of aspects of the harsh Australian environment and now engaging in sophisticated dialogue through social networking discussion forums and composing thoughtful and well researched blogs. Our students are feeling connected.

Our second year PBLers(Yr 10 2009) are continuing their learning through projects “Voices of the Others” where they traced the experience of a chosen migrant group to Australia and submitted their work through creating an E-archive. Students also studied the art of advertising through exploring our global links through our “Globalisation” project and we have just recently released “Famous Dismissals” where students will explore the Whitlam years in government and create a newspaper supplement.

So it has certainly been a busy year so far, with many more exciting experiences to reflect on!”

As highlight above by Lucy; so far yr. 9’s have conducted 3 projects – Scorched, Shake Things Up and An Inconvenient Reply. So lets hear it from few of the year 9 students, as they provide an insightful evaluation upon their chosen social studies project-

Benjamin Khabib- yr. 9- “Scorched”

 “Scorched” was one of the most enjoyable projects in PBL. It provided a challenge for students & concentrated on investigating real-life issues like bushfires & droughts. “Scorched” was a project that was geography-based. I enjoyed the project because, firstly: It taught me a lot & secondly: It was more organized then other projects. In “Scorched” I learnt about real-life issues, which made the project even more exciting & educational, since a lot of the information that I took in from this project, will come useful to me in the future. I was lucky to get a good group of students, who were all outstanding during the project. The task required all groups to create a news broadcast that concentrates on defining bushfires & droughts (Australia’s main natural hazards) & assessing, how does the government, groups & individuals handle these natural hazards. Another important part of the task was designing a solution to manage these natural hazards.

The fact that we had to create a video broadcast excited me all the way through the project & gave me & my team motivation to put all of our efforts into creating not just an educational & correctly structured news report, but also engaging & high quality video that would use its appeal to attract many viewers & address the issues. All around the class, I saw people, including me & my group coming up with fantastic ideas for their videos. Through this I saw the way how PBLwas effective: It drove everyone to come up with fantastic ideas independently & share them around, rather then having just one idea being taught to a whole cohort for many years without change. “Scorched” changed the whole light, in which I saw PBL. At first, I saw PBL as an enemy to peaceful learning as I was never happy with sharing my ideas with others, but everything changed. After “Scorched” I got into the vibe of PBLbecause this time I learnt a lot from my peers & instead of just sharing my ideas like in other projects, I received ideas & information from other people when they were presenting their news reports. The reliability of the information presented in other people’s news broadcasts amazed me. My group & me also produced a decent news report. I took the initiative of using the green screen technology & my group stood out as the only ones that used the green screen. Through this, we were able to create exciting backgrounds behind our “presenter” (Me) & our “reporters” & “victims” as well learn new technology for future projects. My group unfortunately received 30/50. I did not create perfect news broadcast, but I am ready to take teachers’ feedback into consideration & do better next time. “Scorched” was a pleasurable project, despite people saying that we didn’t learn enough, but it is probably the fact that they didn’t try hard enough to learn everything that was on offer. Many people expected PBL to be easy, but it isn’t, because even in PBL you haveto work hard & put effort to achieve good results, as to the project itself, it was very organized & educational.

Next in line was a project that looked upon Shakespearean re-make…

Balkaran Mann- yr. 9- “Shake Things Up”

“Shake things up was our first project and we were excited to get a taste of the PBL version of English. Before we started the project we knew it was about Shakespeare and had done some work on Shakespeare. There were mixed reactions before the project started with some people ready to divulge into learning the works of man of the millennium – William Shakespeare whilst others were not sure after their bad experience with Shakespeare in year 7.

But now comes PBL after being bored by studying Shakespeare in 2007 and finding it hard to understand, project based learning should change that. In short PBLwill allow us to learn Shakespeare through a creative medium (which was the mainly the trailer) that would make the process enjoyable and stick in our heads.

Since this project required us to make a movie trailer of a Shakespeare play it instantly received a great reaction since the filming and editing of the trailer was going to be very a very enjoyable and creative task that would allow us to film, learn, expand on software skills and socialize with friends. Talking about friends I think that we should be able to pick our own groups now and then to have fun and be in comfort.

I’ll expand on the tasks in the project:

1) Story board: it was a great way to organise and plan out our trailer so the trailer could go according to plan and we knew what we had to instead of making scenes on the spot.

2) Translated scene: it was a good test of our Shakespearean skills.

3) Trailer: as we filmed the trailer we expanded our knowledge on Shakespeare and learnt so it would stay in our minds. The trailer also allowed us to learn other skills as well.”

Global-Warming seems to a topic that has everyone wondering, lets see what the third project was about…

Ashish Sood – year 9- “An Inconvenient Reply”

“One of the project that I have carried out for Social Studies is ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. We were told that we have to come up with blueprints and maps for an environmentally friendly city that would help defeat global warming. But before all of this, we saw the film (An Inconvenient Truth), which was made by AL Gore, it was a documentary on Global Warming and its effects on the world. It made us think for the first time about our effects on Earth, while AL Gore provided evidence, facts and statistics for the happenings of it.

After watching the movie, we signed up for Ning (a social networking site, used for collaborating information) and started blogging, which is a process of reflecting and recounting. We got assigned homework that was based on adding information and thoughts on forums discussions or composing blog posts. All the work carried out looked upon creating more sustainable solutions for various things that are having a huge effect on our beautiful planet.

I found this topic very interesting as it gave PBLa new meaning. It evolved education in such a manner that it made us think, and make good use our creative mind, but offcourse main thing was that is was FUN! Ning presents education in a much more radical way – a way that I think should be the concept of the whole PBL system.”

It’s evident that year 9 students much love social studies, not only because they are learning various amount things, but also they are enjoying working with fellow peers and technology.

Year 10 is a step up in terms of PBL and social studies; we are now expected to not only exceed our own expectations but the teacher’s as well. Year 10’s have nicely settled into this new system, and are looking forward to new challenges. The first project that year 10 had lined up for them was called, “Voices Of The Other”.

First project looked upon students examining the aspect of Vietnam War and the role Australia played in it. The entry document was designed using Zoho Notebook which modelled for the students the expectations of teachers, ZohoNotebook was the tool that was used through the duration of this project. So through the study of Vietnam War it tied in nicely with looking at the overall migrant experience of different groups to Australia. The final product of the project involved the students collaborating within their groups in order to create an e-archive, a collection of resources that needed to be located or created. This collaboration of resources included letters, interviews, newspaper, poems and photos.

“…For this project, you are required to construct an e-archive using ZOHONotebook that highlights the impact of international events on the migrant experience in Australia. Your product must be based on the stories and experiences of one particular migrant group to Australia. Individually, you must create a montage which includes a collection of images with an accompanying audio that portrays the migrant experience of the Vietnamese and this is to be included in your overall e-archive….”- portion of the entry document.

Example of writing that was carried out in this project…

“I’m scared. I’ve been scared for a while. Death is now the only thing i think about. Being blown into pieces because I took a bad step or was at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s been getting to me and this book is the only book I have left. My house, my clothes, my friends, MY RIGHTS gone! They were taken away from me today!!

It all happened so fast. All I remember is entering my house with dad, mum, and my younger brother. We had all gone out because dad had finished his time in the army even though the war is still going on. I can still hear the echoes of bombs and gunfire as I sit in a tent made out of newspaper and the rubble of blown up buildings. We came back all tired and happy about the night. Dad had been awarded medals while me and my brother ate the left over oregano pizza we were able to take home. I didn’t even enter our house before dad was yelling to get out. I was right at the door and that’s when the smell hit me.

The smell of gas from the stove hit me filling my nostrils and taking over my lungs. My sudden reflex was drop to the ground. While mum jumped to cover the “habibi” of the family, Jean-Paul. Dad being the fit, army experienced, old man he shut the door and jumped to cover me. I closed my eyes and covered my ears as we waited for the bang. It took a few seconds for the bang to happen. When it did i felt all the wind be sucked inwards towards the house before the heat and the debris hit me. The noise lasted for a second but the damage that it did to my ears is still taking its time. As soon as all the debris had rested I pulled myself out. Dad was still alivebut needed a rest. Mum summoned the energy to climb off Jean-Paul. He was fifteen but now he wasn’t recognisable, neither was mum or dad. Their clothes were burnt, their skin covered in ash and cuts, I’m guessing by the looks of shock on their faces we all looked the same. We walked around for a while looking for anything that survived. The only things were a picture of mum and dad’s wedding, my journal and Jean-Paul’s half burnt slingshot. Now I’m here, homeless, bruised and sick and tired of fearing for my life. So far dad has decided that were going to travel to my aunties how were we will live until were back on our feet. Until then, I will be wondering through cities picking up any pens I find on the street and get down when people tell me to. No one deserves this life.”

Reflection upon the Vietnam War…

Next project was called Globalisation, this looked upon learning the aspect of advertisement (English content), and Australia as a whole (Geography content), trough the progression of this project students also covered a great deal of information upon Australia’s global and region links…So How do we sell Australia?

“So you think you can make an ad? You’ve spent plenty of time on the couch thinking you could do the job better than the professionals? Well, here’s your shot. We want you to make an ad for us. And not just for us, but for Australia. For your country. In fact, it’s your patriotic duty to do it. It would be un-Australian not to.

This year’s Consumer’s Revenge challenge asks you to BEAT THE BAZ, to come up with a tourism ad that will sell this wide brown land of ours to the rest of the world.

Here’s how it all works.

Don’t worry that you’re not a filmmaker. We’ve built an online tool to make the whole thing easy for you. We call it the Gruen Admixer. It’s so simple even that gorilla in the chocolate ad could crank out an award winner. Here’s how to use it:

1. Check out our extensive library of video clips. It’s in a pull-down menu marked “Categories”. We’ve loaded more than 100 short clips of Australian scenes and icons: our beaches, our wildlife, our rainforests and much more. You can preview any of the clips by clicking on them.

2. Make your ad by dragging the clips you want to the “Video” timeline bar at the bottom of the Admixer. You can change the order or edit each clip to make it shorter.

3. Click on the “Text” tab up the top. Now you can weave a script around those images. The pictures alone are never going to be enough. We want you to come up with a proper ad, with an unforgettable slogan at the end. That means writing good ad copy. (Hint: think of it as an old-fashioned silent movie – write words that add meaning to the pictures you’ve chosen.) Here’s an example of a slogan: “Australia. Less prone to recession than almost anywhere”.

4. Click on the “Audio” tab and add a soundtrack to your ad. A soundtrack is what stirs our emotions, so it’s pretty important.

5. Consider whether you need to add visual and sound effects. These can be found under the “Effects” tab.

Look, we don’t mind if you want to make a serious tourism ad or a sarcastic one. We don’t care if your ad would lure millions or drive them away. What we want to see is inspiration. We want to see your creativity on display, your understanding of emotions, your ability to tell a story.

To give you an idea of what we’re expecting, the staff at Gruen HQ have had a couple of goes at the Admixer ourselves. Have a look at what we’ve come up with here and here. We think you’ll agree that they’re better than Baz’s (well, cheaper anyway), but still, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Your improvement.

Click through to the Admixer and have a go. Do it for the economy and do it for Australia, and go, you good thing, go!!!”- Entry Document

Example of work which was done…


Last but not least was the project so called, “famous dismissals”, with the driving (theme) question: How do individuals and groups wield power over people and politics? In this project we looked upon famous Australian dismissals that included- Jack Lang, Sir. Donald Bradman and Gough Whitlam. This the course of this project, year 10 students undertook a massive research task based on those famous figures…


“Newspaper Supplement on the Whitlam Years in Government. In your group of 5 each group member is to take responsibility for an issue relating to the Whitlam years in Government.

– Finance

– Foreign Relations and Immigration

– Aboriginal Affairs, gender and race relations

– Corruption and Scandal

– Impact and Legacy

Over the period of the project each group member is to research and write 3 newspaper articles on your chosen topic. (one per week) which will be submitted via pmonline at weeks end. At projects completion your group will have produced a newspaper supplement, using all the articles previously submitted, documenting the Whitlam Government from election to Dismissal. Your groups supplement should also contain other items that you would commonly find in a newspaper, feature article, advertisements, political cartoons, editorials and letters to the editor.”


4 Responses to "Looking Back…"

My name is David Ross. I am the director of professional development for the Buck Institute for Education (www.bie.org), a non-profit based near San Francisco. We have long been considered the international leader in Project Based Learning research, materials and professional development. I’d love to learn more about the work going on at your school. Feel free to email me for more information.

Best wishes, David

Tanuj, it was very enjoyable to see students from the PMHS providing you with their opinions about PBL. Was there some reason that CathTECH or Science did not appear in your posts?

Nice taking about the great gifts of your school however I believe you forgot to get opinions from teachers to compare and contrast the opinons. Besides where are the subjects SCIENCE, CST, ICT? All in all a good blog but requires perfection

Nice taking about the great gifts of your school however I believe you forgot to get opinions from teachers from various different subjects to compare and contrast the opinons. Besides where are the subjects SCIENCE, CST, ICT? All in all a good blog but requires perfection

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